Wm. C. Reid.
God has been pleased to reveal to men, and especially to those who have been brought into relationship with Him, His mind and will. Every creature has some form of relationship with God, even the lowest, but men have been brought into special relationship with Him, as having been created with a capacity for entering into His thoughts in some measure. The Book of Genesis, which gives us the divine account of the creation, was specially given to Israel in the first place, to a nation that had been brought into covenant relationship with God. Indeed, the chief advantage that Israel had over other nations was "that unto them were committed the oracles of God" (Rom. 3:2). Only those who have been brought into the family of God in a new creation relationship have the capacity to enter into the revelation that God has given of Himself in the Person of the Son. Man naturally has a mind capable of understanding some of the things connected with creation, but the apprehension of spiritual things belongs only to those who are indwelt by God's Holy Spirit.
Christ's Eternal Sonship
The relationship of sons is the most blessed relationship in which any man can be with God and, as we shall see, God has been pleased to bring some of His creatures into this relationship with Himself; but there is One who is in the relationship of Son to God in a unique way, in a way that no other can be, for it is the eternal relationship of Him of whom the Scriptures say, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1-2). It is in Him that God has been revealed , even as the same writer tells us, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John 1:18).
"In the bosom of the Father" speaks of the peculiar place of the Only begotten Son. Although every saint of God is loved by the Father, and although the Son has said that the world will yet know that we are loved by the Father with the love that rests on Him (John 17:23), yet this place in the bosom of the Father is His alone, for it tells us of His divine and eternal relationship with His Father, the place that was His before He came into Manhood, and that never could cease to be His. This is not a place or relationship into which He entered, but what belonged to Him essentially and eternally because of who He was and is. Every mention of the Son as the Only begotten has this eternal relationship in mind, a relationship that was and could never cease to be.
In John 17:5 the Son said, "Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." The Son was with the Father before the world was, and He had glory with the Father before the world was, and now the Son, as Man, having come into the place of dependence on God the Father, desires to have as Man the glory that was His as Son with His Father in eternity. In verse 24 of this same chapter the Son asks the Father that His own might be with Him in His house to behold that glory that is His as the Eternal Son.
Paul joins with John in presenting to us the glory of the Eternal Son, where he writes of the Son of the Father's love, saying, "For by Him were all things created … all things were created by Him, and for Him" (Col. 1:13, 16). Here we are left in no doubt that it was as Son that the Lord Jesus created all things, just as John records at the beginning of his Gospel that it was the Eternal Word that made all things. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews also tells us that the worlds were created by the Son, saying, "God … has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son … by whom also He made the worlds" (Heb. 1:1-2).
Christ's Sonship in Time
Having come into Manhood the Son of God entered into His new conditions in the relationship that was ever His as Son with His God and Father, so that He was now God's Son as Man, in the place of dependence and subjection that belonged to men. It was not a new relationship for the Son, but He entered into the relationship in a new way, and as no man previously had ever known it. This had been foretold in Psalm 2, where the Lord said, "The LORD has said to me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee" (verse 7). This prophetic word was fulfilled at the coming of Jesus into the world, the angel saying to Mary, "that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
In John's Gospel, where the birth of the Lord Jesus is not given, His incarnation is brought before us in 1:14, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of an Only begotten with a Father) full of grace and truth". Here was the Son in Manhood, in relationship with God as Son and as Man, having the same relationship with Him as in eternity, but having it in entirely new conditions and circumstances.
John Baptist, in John 1, spoke of the Lord Jesus as Son of God, saying that he did not know Him in this way, but the One who sent him told him that the One upon whom he would see the Holy Spirit descending, and remaining upon Him, was the baptizer with the Holy Spirit. John realised that this could only be said of One who was God, so he said, "I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God." Baptizing with the Holy Spirit tells us that Jesus in heaven is the Son of God there.
Jesus will also be know as Son of God in a coming day, for Nathaniel confessed Jesus as He will be yet confessed by His people Israel, "Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel" (John 1:49).
Sonship of Angelic Beings
The Lord Himself lifts for us the veil of time so that we can look back before the work of forming the earth was completed, for He said to Job, "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? … when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (38:4-7). God then looked upon angelic beings as His sons. It is a creatorial relationship, but of beings in the highest order of creation, those who were able to rejoice in the work of God's hand, and specially in this act of preparing the earth for the habitation of man, but where the Son of God would Himself come to lay the foundation in redemption for the accomplishing of the eternal counsels of God.
Again, in Genesis 6:2, we read of the sons of God. These, it would appear from Jude verse 6, are "the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation." It was a most serious matter for angels, who had been so highly favoured of God, to depart from the place in which God had placed them to gratify their own desires. Their being called " sons of God" speaks of the favoured relationship in which God viewed them as His creatures.
Israel as God's Son
When Pharaoh afflicted God's people Israel, God sent Moses to say to Pharaoh, "Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: and I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn" (Ex. 4:22-23). From among the nations of the earth, God had chosen Israel to be His people, and as a nation He viewed them as His son, and gave Pharaoh to understand the privileged place this nation had before Him, even the firstborn's place, the chief place above all the nations of the earth. Because of this favoured relationship with God, Israel were cared for and constantly watched over by God.
In His message to Pharaoh, God made plain that He desired His people to serve Him. There was responsibility as well as privilege attached to being God's son nationally. This is emphasised in Malachi 1:6, where the LORD says to the remnant of Israel, " A son honoureth his father … if then I be a father, where is Mine honour?" Responsibility is commensurate with privilege: the privileges of Israel were immense, but they were despised; hence the severity of the judgments.
Among the children of Israel, Solomon had a favoured place with the LORD, who said of him to David, "I will be his Father, and he shall be My son" (2 Sam. 7:14). The responsibility of this favoured place is at once emphasised, for God added, "If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men." Alas, the LORD had to carry out this threat, for Solomon was led astray by his many wives, and 1 Kings 11 tells of how the LORD chastened him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men.
Sonship in Romans 8
Sonship for men is found in an entirely new way in this chapter, "For", says the Apostle, "as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (verse 14). Earlier in the chapter the Spirit of God is spoken of in different ways: He is the Spirit of life, the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ, the One through whom Christ dwells in us, the One who gives us the character of Christ, and who is the Spirit of power. All who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit are under His leadership, and are the sons of God. This is something very different from sonship by creation, as belonged to angels, and different from the national sonship that Israel had.
A new family has been formed by the Spirit of God, and the Holy Spirit indwells every one in this divine family. Israel under law had a "spirit of bondage" that held them in fear, "but we have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (verse 15). In the liberty of our near relationship with God we address Him as Father, for this is the way in which He has been made know in the Person of the Son. We are viewed also as God's children in this chapter, for we not only have sonship by adoption, but are born as children into God's family.
At present the saints of God are not manifested as His sons, for the world does not know that this is our relationship with God; but the day is surely coming when we shall be so manifested, and it is for this day the groaning creation waits (verses 19-22). We have the Holy Spirit as the firstfruits of the coming day, and then we shall enter into the full blessedness of our relationship with God as His sons, even as it is written, "awaiting adoption, (that is) the redemption of the body". In our glorified bodies we shall have our part with Christ in the glory of His kingdom, and in all that awaits us in the Father's House.
We are to be conformed to the image of God's Son, when we get our glorified bodies, "that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren" (verse 29). It is our association with Christ that gives the saints of this period their peculiar place of blessing. We are Christ's brethren, His companions, His friends, His body and His bride; but we also share His place before the Father. Other families will be be blessed in the coming day, others will enjoy the relationship of sons before the Father, but the saints of this day are sons in association with the Firstborn among many brethren; and the church is "the church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven" (Heb. 13:23).
Sonship in Galatians
New birth makes us children of God, but "ye are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26). We come into sonship by adoption, having been sinners before God, and it is faith in Christ that actually brings us into this new relationship with God. Old Testament saints were never in this relationship of sons with God, for they were not associated with Christ, nor had they the knowledge of the Father or the Holy Spirit indwelling them. They were children of God, as we are, yet they did not know that this relationship was theirs; it is only those who have received the Son, come in the flesh to reveal the Father, who can take this place (John 1:12). Under law, the saints of God were children, but now that faith has come in contrast with law sonship is the relationship of such as have faith.
The "adoption of sons" could not possibly be known until "God sent forth His Son … that we might receive" this blessing (4:4-5). Having been brought into this relationship with God, He has given us His Spirit that we might be in the consciousness and enjoyment of it; and as knowing God in the intimacy of this new relationship, by the indwelling Spirit of sonship we cry, "Abba, Father". Each saint of God is "a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" (4:7).
In Ephesians 1:5 we are seen as predestinated "unto the adoption of sons, by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will." From eternity it was the desire of God to have sons in whom He could find His pleasure—and we were marked out for this blessed relationship before we had any being—and in association with His own Son, in the nearest possible place to Himself. How this praises the glory of the grace of God, grace that has given us the Beloved's place of nearness and affection. The riches of God's grace takes away our sins, but the glory of God's grace shines out in making us His sons. This is our calling; and in chapter 4:1 we are exhorted to "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith " we are called.
Sonship in Luke 15
How very beautiful is the type that brings the prodigal into such a wondrous place before the Father. Sinners who were altogether unworthy are greeted with a Father's embrace and covered with kisses. The best robe surely tells us that we are accepted in the Beloved, graced in Christ before God in His own righteousness, for we are "made the righteousness of God" in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). To show that the dignity of sons is ours, we are given the ring; and the shoes bespeak the privileges of sons in the presence of the Father. Once dead, but made alive, we are brought into the Father's presence, through the death of His Son, to be at home before Him, and with Him to celebrate in feasting His wondrous grace.